Extend this call: younger generations everywhere need to learn about the horrors of war

May 25, 2020

Recently a correspondent drew attention to the words of Roger Beaumont, a historian of the Indian Army: “When the day comes that man gives to peace what he has given to war, then the circle can close…”

On his last birthday before his abdication Japan’s emperor appeared on the balcony of the imperial palace in Tokyo with Empress Michiko and called for his country’s younger generations to be taught accurately about the horrors of war.

“It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in the second world war and that the peace and prosperity of postwar Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people, and to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war,” he said.

Akihito expressed relief that his 30 year reign – the heisei (“peace everywhere”) era – has been a peaceful one for Japan.

Since succeeding his father Hirohito, Japan’s wartime emperor, he has used his reign to call for an honest appraisal of history.

Japan’s postwar constitution prohibits the emperor from wielding political influence, but the imperial couple have promoted reconciliation with former victims of Japanese wartime aggression.

In 1992, Akihito became the first Japanese emperor to visit China, telling his hosts he “deeply deplored” an “unfortunate period in which my country inflicted great suffering on the people of China” during a war fought in the name of his father.

The former Emperor Akihito has given what he could to peace.


Comment by email:

It was good that he publicly called for Japanese recognition of the foul crimes they committed – on a par with Nazi Germany – although “unfortunate period in which my country inflicted great suffering on the people of China” hardly matches the atrocities they perpetrated on the far east generally.

A search on one of these countries found:

In November 1962, Akihito and his wife were sent (to the Philippines) to represent his father. At the time, Japan didn’t have a law yet that would allow government officials to represent the emperor in diplomatic visits, so it had to be the son.

Prince Akihito (then 29 years old) and Princess Michiko were “nervous.” Although the relations between Manila and Tokyo had normalized 6 years before that, they felt that the “anti-Japanese sentiment was [still] high.” They expected a cold treatment. They expected people hurling negative slogans at them.

“To their surprise – and they were deeply honored – your president and his wife were at the airport to welcome them,” the ambassador said, referring to then president Diosdado Macapagal and his wife Eva. “That melted the tension and unease in the hearts of the young prince and princess.”

Now, Akihito, 82, is referred to as an emperor of peace. On occasions that he spoke about the war, his message had always been one of remorse. About the Philippines, specifically, his message to his people is always: be grateful for the forgiveness, but don’t forget what pain we inflicted on them.

“Although the Filipino people have forgiven the Japanese for the atrocities, the emperor says, don’t forget,” Ambassador Takashima said. “The Emperor and the Empress were talking between themselves, and they said the Filipinos are Christians so they were able to forgive.”










Post virus: adopt Her Majesty’s Armed Forces

April 29, 2020


George MacPherson* writes: “the way the armed forces have behaved this past month has been exemplary! Truly inspiring and their role very much what we have been calling for. Friends must stop being ‘allergic’ to the Forces – but get in there and steer them away from destruction and killing – and towards restraint, prevention, international police and rescue”. 

There is a group – un-named but active – who, in seeking world peace, believe that Friends should embrace our armed forces, and work towards a National Peace Force. Our suggestion is: ‘Let us adopt our armed services, and declare war on violence and destruction!”

Don’t gasp with horror – but simply consider how adoptive parents influence their new responsibilities

Loving parenthood reduces the risk of armed conflict with the killing and wounding of fellow humans, the devastation of homes and public facilities. As parents we would need to guide our adoptees to adopt non-lethal and preventative defence methods.

This would completely rule out wanton annihilation, while any ‘war’ would have to be ‘fought’ using prevention – through intelligence and diplomacy; treaties, foreign aid and investment in the development of technologies to suit the climate and terrain of the countries concerned. For example, in Somalia, solar energy and desalination of sea-water could enable industrial and horticultural activity, providing work and a living for the Somalis and their families rather than becoming migrants.

In resolving conflict with developed countries like Russia the USA or China, subtle but equally effective measures can be taken. Given the will, these can be considered, researched, developed and implemented. For example to establish trust and remove unfair competition and fear – and again, the back-stop if all else fails, should be non-lethal, non-destructive weaponry.

British society will never give up its armed forces

Quakers are banging their heads against brick walls when they could be ‘getting in there and changing things’ positively. Schools welcome people in uniform who come to inspire their pupils. Millions enjoy the Trooping of the Colour, Remembrance parades, Navy days and air shows.

There are so many traditions and positive assets that we have, embedded in the presence and history of our armed services. Just consider how successful they are in their methods of education, with comradeship, discipline, and development of brain-power to plan operations or react to emergencies. The adult development of skills and professions from plumber, engineer, nurse, doctor, pilots, digital experts – which prepare people first for their contracted service, with pension and then return them, trained, disciplined, and sociable, to society to take up careers in other industries and the public sector.

We can never hope to ‘do away with the armed forces’. OK, so let’s convert them, little by little, by means of persuasion, logical arguments like: “Why destroy every power station, hospital, school, railway and facility when all we want is to bring an end to conflict? Wouldn’t it be better to avoid the conflict by ‘jaw-jaw’, diplomacy, cultural exchange and giving incentives to come to agreement? Think of the savings!!

If a nation is taken over by imperial, greedy, power-hungry leaders – and there are signs that these are currently emerging by winning votes with lies and corruption – there must be ways of restraining them – using digital means to disable (temporarily) their infrastructure, winning their people’s trust and offering them alternative trading and co-operation methods. Doing nothing to thwart these tyrants is to collaborate with them and each of us can take an active part, politically, financially or simply socially by speaking out.

“But if they attack us with missiles and bombs, tanks and artillery? What then?”

This is where Friends’ influence is important: let us take action by encouraging the best brains to develop ‘weapons’ that restrain or disable rather than destroy and devastate. Ever since gladiators used throw-over netting to prevent attackers from moving about or swinging swords; and ever since we, as young men called up for National Service were taught “if you get attacked or threatened by someone with a knife, grab a chair or anything else you can, to keep them at arm’s distance – or run away and get help.”

The world needs police of all kinds. Our police protect us from killers and violence as best they can – but given extra research and scientific input – their bullets could be changed into darts that disable instantly – such as are used by vets and wildlife wardens with dangerous animals. Gas need not be lethal, but could anaesthetise to prevent attack; hacking into control systems of missiles, drones and vehicles could direct them into harmless quarries and waste ground.

That would, of course need a huge amount of research and development of non-lethal weapons and defence mechanisms – but consider how much would eventually be saved, compared with what it will cost to restore some kind of civil life in Syria, Palestine – and what it cost, after World War II, to make normal life return to London, Berlin, and Stalingrad.

Meanwhile, we would continue to have the national defence of able-bodied experts, men and women trained for life at international service in the event of weather, earthquakes, epidemics and disasters, law and order – meanwhile providing education, discipline, mutual respect and even the arts to generations of people from all backgrounds, including those least privileged, who traditionally ‘make good’ by taking the Queen’s shilling.

Now let’s discuss it and bring to the notice of  politicians, senior officers in the armed forces and our families. Let’s start with our oldest ‘adoptee’ – the Royal Navy. They are the senior service, currently under scrutiny by having a scarcity of ships.


This proposal was first published in the November 2019 newsletter of Minehead Meeting. 

*George MacPherson farmed in Launceston for some time before working as a producer with the BBC World Service, then as Programme Organiser for the Swahili Service. After several years working in rural development in Tanzania, Malawi and Botswana, he joined the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation as a Technical Advisor to the Government of Tanzania before returning to Britain. He also presented and produced music, medical, farming and wildlife programmes for BBC Five Live and BBC Radio Four.




Celebrating Dr Susan Allen, General Guterres, the Metro but, above all, the Movement for the Abolition of War

March 26, 2020


Dr Susan H Allen, Center for Peacemaking Practice, George Mason University, Arlington, writes to the Financial Times, stressing the opportunity we now have to limit the pandemic’s worst impacts in war zones:

“I urge all warring parties to heed this week’s call by UN Secretary General António Guterres for a global ceasefire”.

This call made two days ago and ignored by our mainstream newspapers (insufficiently sensational?) was highlighted in the Metro which presents a video of the call here.

Dr Mason cites precedents for ceasefires that allow urgent medical care. US president Jimmy Carter and The Carter Center negotiated the six-month Guinea worm ceasefire in 1995 to allow concerted efforts towards Guinea worm eradication in Sudan, continuing:

“Over the years, Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontères (MSF) have called for short-term ceasefires for doctors and medical aid to reach hospitals in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and so on. Now is the time to scale up the practice of ceasefires for medical care with an unprecedented truly global ceasefire. Winning a fight with a pandemic while fighting a war is not possible. We need to pause armed conflict and devote ourselves to preventing extensive mass casualties from the pandemic”.

‘Abolish War’ is the watchword of MAW, formed in 2001 following the Hague Appeal for Peace in 1999, which works closely with the International Peace Bureau in Geneva.

Dr Allen believes that Mr Guterres’ leadership in calling for the global ceasefire provides us with a new way forward as a human family – but a temporary ceasefire could not do that.

She, UN Secretary General António Guterres and all thinking people should go further: war does not persist in any family worthy of the word.

Links and pictures added.






Out with excessive military spending and sabre rattling, in with a foreign policy based on co-operation and diplomacy

March 19, 2020


The size and scope of the ‘Defender-Europe 20’ exercise has been reduced because of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Stop the War (STWC) argues that money allocated for the Defender 2020 exercise (£294m) and other preparations for war should be diverted to healthcare and welfare. Many would like to see a large proportion dedicated to addressing climate change: see Military spending hits record levels, while climate finance falls short.

The U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) explains that the Defender-Europe 20 exercise, scheduled to take place in Central and Eastern Europe and Georgia in April-May 2020, is intended to’ build strategic readiness by deploying a combat credible force to Europe in support of NATO and the U.S. National Defense Strategy’.

Since January, nearly 6,000 US soldiers travelled to Europe and approximately 9,000 vehicles and 3000 pieces of equipment were sent by sea from the United States.

NATO claims the goal of the US-led exercise was not directed at any particular country, but as Bethany Rielly points out, many would argue that mass military exercises near Russian borders is provocative. This argument is supported by the words of Ben Hodges, who commanded US Army Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general in 2017.

Business Insider reported that Hodges said actions taken so far send a “strong signal to our allies and to the Kremlin that the USA remains committed to Europe, to deterrence, [and] to NATO.” 

Janes’ reported that the size and scope of ‘Defender-Europe 20’ – see plan above – has been reduced because of the Covid-19 outbreak; military and civilian health, safety, and readiness were cited as the primary reasons. The armoured brigade combat team (ABCT) already deployed to Europe would conduct gunnery and other joint training with allied forces as part of a modified exercise ‘Allied Spirit’

European countries are closing borders and restricting movement. The Dutch Ministry of Defence announced on its website on 13 March that the movement of an entire US combat brigade from the Dutch port of Vlissingen to Eastern Europe had been cancelled. The Bundeswehr (the unified armed forces of Germany) also pulled out of “Defender-Europe 20”, saying that Defender-Europe 20 will not continue in that country and that exercises planned for the Bergen and Grafenwöhr training areas would not take place.

STWC ends, “At a time when countries, including the UK, are under increasing financial pressure to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, to continue with this military extravagance is both dangerous and irresponsible. Now is not the time to be increasing military spending but rather to reallocate funds away from the military towards welfare and healthcare.”





Will Palestinian and Israeli children grow up knowing nothing but fear, violence and division?

February 1, 2020

On Tuesday, the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was announced in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

In the mildest paragraph in a startlingly outspoken Haaretz article, Chemi Shalev writes: “Trump’s plan abandons the usual diplomatic rule that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. It allows Israel to seize its spoils immediately, while the Palestinians have to spend years proving themselves by jumping over hurdles and going through loops, with no guarantee whatsoever that they’ll get anything in return: Israel has the final say whether Palestinians have passed or failed”.

Andrew Woodcock points out that Mr Johnson stopped short of giving his endorsement to the Trump plan, but said Palestinians should be ready to engage with the US president’s ideas. He adds that Johnson’s expression of support for the process came as he sought to restore good relations with the US president after defying his demand to exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from the UK’s 5G telecoms network.

Despite the US president’s plan confirming the illegal annexation of settlements across the occupied West Bank, the expulsion of Israel’s Palestinian residents and the fragmentation of Palestinian areas, Boris Johnson said the plan has “the merits of a two-state solution.”

Rivals Hamas and Fatah held a joint meeting in Ramallah on the West Bank to plan a series of protests against US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited peace plan

In the Commons today, Bethany Rielly (sic) reports, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the proposal “destroys any prospect of an independent, contiguous Palestinian state”, insisting: “This is not a peace plan, it is a monstrosity and a guarantee that the next generation of Palestinian and Israeli children, like so many generations before them, will grow up knowing nothing but fear, violence and division.”






Calls for Britain to stop recruiting adolescents to the armed forces

December 30, 2019

David Collins, a Committee member of the Movement for the Abolition of War of Friends of Le Monde Diplomatique and of Veterans For Peace UK, recently got in touch and has been added to our mailing list.

A search revealed a video on VfP’s website, “Made in the Royal Navy”, published by Child Rights International Network (CRIN). The film charges the British army with intentionally targeting young people from deprived backgrounds for the most dangerous front-line jobs. It plays on the natural anxiety in boys and young men about how they are going to become a man and go out into the world. Its message is that the Navy will remake the raw youth into a heroic version of the inadequate boy that they once were.

The actual experience of most of these youngsters is set out in a report published in August 2019: Conscription by Poverty? Deprivation and army recruitment in the UK.

This is a long-standing concern of many on our mailing list. In 2011, Britain’s child soldiers – 2 reminded readers that, twelve years earlier, the BBC had reported the British Army was being urged by the United Nations to stop sending young soldiers into war.

Following Symon Hill’s work in The Friend, the Ekklesia website, and a Nato Watch article, an article by Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary for Quakers in Britain, pointed out that “with the exception of Russia, and apprentices in Ireland, the British Army is unique in Europe in recruiting at the age of 16. Of 14,185 recruits into the army last year, 3,630 or over 25%, joined under the age of 18 . . . Deprivation and army recruitment in the UK . . . Those joining the army at the age of 16 often come from the poorest and least educated backgrounds. Some have reading ages of a child of half that age. They lack the confidence to seek a change in their career in the same way as those training for professions.” 

Ian Davis, the Director of NatoWatch, sent a reference to the post by Symon Hill, now placed on its website. He added that the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, together with War Child, UNICEF UK, the Children’s Society, and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England are calling for the Armed Forces Bill to be amended to end the “outdated practice” of recruiting soldiers aged under 18, a call backed by Amnesty International UK and the United Nations Association.

Five years later Quakers in Scotland and ForcesWatch presented a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for greater scrutiny, guidance and consultation on the visits of armed forces to schools in Scotland. Over four-fifths of state secondary schools in Scotland were visited by the armed forces in a two-year period, according to a 2014 ForcesWatch report.

A 2016 report by public health charity Medact found that soldiers recruited aged 16 and 17 were twice as likely to be killed or injured when in combat compared to those enlisted when aged 18 or over. Medact also found that they were more likely to commit suicide, self-harm, abuse alcohol and develop post-traumatic stress disorder than older recruits

In May this year, the BMI Journal reviewed an article: Adverse health effects of recruiting child soldiers, published in February. It rejected the main justification resting on fears of a ‘recruitment shortfall’: saying that given the extensive harms described in its report, to put recruitment figures above the health and well-being of children and adolescents seems misguided and counterproductive for both the Ministry of Defence as a governmental body and wider society.The second justification alleging economic and occupational benefits to recruits, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds was also rejected:

“(W)e have seen that it is precisely child recruits from disadvantaged backgrounds who are at highest risk of adverse outcomes in the military. Furthermore, figures from 2017 show that those recruited under the age of 18 constituted 24% of those who voluntarily left the Armed Forces before completing their service—this also increases the likelihood of lower mental health outcomes”.

It supported the views of those of the fourteen organisations mentioned here, recommending that the UK end its practice of recruiting adolescents to the armed forces.






America’s Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

December 8, 2019

A Cwyllynfell reader has drawn attention to Daniel Bessner’s interview with historian Stephen Wertheim. Stephen is Deputy Director of Research and Policy – a co-founder and non-paid Fellow of the Quincy Institute. for Responsible Statecraft: the first modern think tank to devote itself to a policy of “military restraint” and diplomatic engagement.

Its mission is to promote “ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace”.


Daniel Bessner – the Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Associate Professor in American Foreign Policy, University of Washington – explains that almost all national security think tanks share a bipartisan commitment to the notion that world peace (or at least the “national interest”) depends on the United States asserting preponderant military, political, economic, and cultural power. After giving a brief history of America’s influential think-tanks from 1946, Daniel Bessner discussed the institute and its prospects with Stephen Wertheim.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1970

Wertheim (below right) points out that recently significant numbers of Americans have come together around campaigns to stop the invasion of Iraq, campaigns to support the nuclear deal with Iran, and campaigns to end U.S. participation in the war in Yemen, adding: “But what has been missing is a larger effort dedicated to transforming U.S. foreign policy wholesale, not only in particular ways and at particular moments. That’s where the Quincy Institute comes in”.

Quincy could make a significant contribution simply by offering to the public a systematically different world role for the United States. Its point of view counters the consensus on the use of force.

The institute wants to make peace the norm and war the exception. Its members don’t think the United States needs to be the world’s indispensable nation, especially if that means using military force to overthrow or antagonize regimes that don’t threaten us

Wertheim believes that grassroots activism is essential and has no patience with experts who look down on activists and ordinary people; though he agrees that some parts of the left fetishize the grassroots, he points out that others fetishize experts as well. His position is that the grassroots and experts need one another”. Two reasons are given:

  • Experts who are taking on the status quo are going to be effective only if people ultimately stand up and raise hell (or politely call their members of Congress).
  • In turn, ordinary citizens don’t have the time or the expertise to build a comprehensive program for foreign policy. This isn’t an easy task even for people who are specifically trained and paid to do it. A democratic public requires experts and leaders to crystallize alternatives and facilitate debate.

We need better experts and a more informed and mobilized public, not one or the other.

Wertheim says that the foreign policy conversation in Washington and in the mainstream media is dominated by elites—some real experts and some not—who are more hawkish than many actual scholars of foreign policy. Those who are prominent in the media and roam the halls of power in Washington are deeply disconnected from where most American citizens stand – far more enthusiastic about the use of military force than the public. Foreign policy professionals are discouraged from criticizing the status quo and demanding change. Most think tanks depend on funding from the defense industry and governments—the U.S. government and, shockingly, foreign governments:

“There’s far less money in peace, not because most citizens and businesses wouldn’t benefit from peace, but because most donors and lobbyists benefit from war or permanent mobilization for war. To preserve a career in the small world of national security professionals, it’s safer to maintain friendly relations with everyone”.

Daniel Bessner (left) poses this question: “Let’s say the institute succeeds, and in ten years the United States no longer takes military primacy as the sine qua non of its global role and has closed most of its 800-plus military bases. What then? Are we returning to an era of great power competition in which China has its sphere of influence, Russia has its sphere, and the United States has its sphere? Or are we looking at something new, a post-national politics?”

Wertheim responds: “I take your point, but Quincy’s is as positive an agenda as you’ll see in a foreign policy think tank. In fact, I think it’s more genuinely positive than the establishment stance of fetishizing military force as the essence of engagement in the world.

“Force isn’t engagement. It ends human life. It is the ultimate negative. Military restraint is the prerequisite of a genuinely positive vision”.

He continues: “Climate change and neoliberalism pose bigger challenges to the American people than any rival nation-state. Our foreign policy should reflect those priorities. We are not going to address the climate crisis unless we tamp down military competition, ramp up investments in green technologies and reach a legitimate bargain both among the major polluters—China, the United States, Europe, India, and Russia—and between the Global North and the Global South . . . None of this can be accomplished if we continue to pursue global military hegemony, which exacerbates rather than mitigates the climate crisis and the neoliberal order, and consumes more than half of the federal discretionary budget”.

Obama and Trump, in their different and partial ways, expressed interest in moving away from militaristic policies, Wertheim notes, but each struggled to find advisers and appointees who could give form to their instincts. As a result, U.S. foreign policy remained largely unchanged. If personnel is policy, Quincy can change policy by training personnel who are prepared to staff presidential administrations, building a cadre able to answer technical questions of foreign policy while simultaneously addressing larger questions concerning the nature of power, governance, and sovereignty in the twenty-first century.

Bessner responded that connecting these two realms—the technical and the philosophical—would be a significant achievement – the most important long-term function of the Quincy Institute.

To read the interview in full click here.